Malthus Essay, Research Paper
Thomas Robert Malthus was a well-known economist as well as a clergyman. He was born on February 13th, 1766, in Surrey, England, and was the sixth of seven children. Malthus attended Cambridge in 1784 and graduated four years later with honors in mathematics. In 1789, Malthus became a deacon in the Church of England and curate of Okewood Chapel in Surrey. In 1798, he anonymously published his renowned work An Essay on the Principle of Population as it affects the Future Improvement of Society, with Remarks on the Speculations of Mr. Godwin, M. Condorcet, and other Writers. In 1803, Malthus published a second, much enlarged edition of the population essay. A year later, Malthus married Harriet Eckersall. In 1821, Malthus became a founding member of the Political Economy Club in London. In 1834, Malthus died at Bath, England. Other works published by Malthus include: A Letter to Samuel Whitbread, Observations on the Effects of the Corn Laws, An Inquiry into the Nature and Progress of Rent, and Principles of the Political Economy.
Of all his works, Malthus’ Essay on the Principle of Population is the best known and the most controversial. Malthus’ famous theory stated that population growth always tends to outrun the food supply. When unchecked, population would grow geometrically, while subsistence would only grow arithmetically. The natural checks that keep our human population in balance in balance with subsistence include war, famine and ill health. Malthus proposed that the checks of misery, vice, and moral restraint could keep the human population under control.
Malthus was an economic pessimist to those who disagreed with him and a realist to his followers. He viewed poverty as something that was inevitable because, “If the only check to population is misery, the result of any improvement is ultimately to enable a larger population than before to live in misery, so that resource-improvement actually increases the sum of misery and that betterment of the lot of mankind is impossible without stern limits on reproduction.” This means that there is overpopulation, and the natural check of misery (poverty) is coming into effect in order to balance out overpopulation. However, by trying to help poverty, we are (according to Malthus) making the situation worse. In the short run, there seems to be an improvement because those poor people are better off and can do well. This situation would lead to a larger population than before, and therefore would lead to a greater number of people becoming impoverished. He therefore shunned charities and proposed that by leaving poverty alone, and by moral restraint and vice (contraception and population control); the situation would take care of itself. “If the only check to population is misery, the population will grow until it is miserable enough to check its growth.”
In the last two hundred years, Malthus’ Essay has sparked controversy and made people aware of population growth. In every generation, there have been Malthusians who caused panic among people. And there have been people like the late Julian Simon who said that Malthusians were talking nonsense. Although Malthus has been proven wrong time and time again, he has made people more aware of the fact that one day he could be right. Malthus is an important economist not only because he proposed his theory. He is important because his works made us aware that if we don’t watch out, we might one day prove him right.